Europe-PH News

Fewer investment restrictions urged

September 07, 2011

European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines

Foreign Chambers want the government to consider shortening the Foreign Investment Negative List to support President Benigno S. C. Aquino Ill's promise of a Philippines that is "open for business".

The call comes as the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) finalizes a poll of government agencies in preparation for a biennial review of the list which details how much foreign participation is allowed for specific activities/investment areas.

"All policies and regulations need periodic review but if it's just the same old list every two years, then what is the NEDA board doing?" said John D. Forbes, American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines legislative committee chairman, at the sidelines of a briefing on the Joint Foreign Chambers' Arangkada reform initiative.

"In 2001, we had the Retail Trade [Liberalization] Act.  There was nothing of significance after that until last year when under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the gambling industry was liberalized and it was allowed to be 100% foreign owned from just 40% in PEZA (Philippine Economic Zone Authority) areas," he added.

The Regular Foreign Investment Negative List, which is renewed through an Executive Order (EO) every three years, undergoes a regular review by the NEDA board, which is headed by the president and composed of Cabinet members and the central bank governor.  The latest list (EO 858) was signed in February last year.

"The foreign chambers look forward to the upcoming review in terms of a potential agenda of proposed laws and proclamations that will make the negative list less negative," Mr. Forbes said.

On Monday, European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Vice-President Henry Schumacher said in a text message: "Easy solutions to make the list less negative are the limitations on professions and applying the condominium rules horizontally."

"Others like the limitation on utilities need to be better interpreted and in the end need some form of constitutional amendment," he added.

A NEDA official said the agency was currently wrapping up a survey where government agencies were asked to comment on foreign ownership policies.

"We distributed a survey to different agencies of the government early this year on the issue," NEDA director Brenda Joyce R. Mendoza told BusinessWorld on Monday.

"The target presentation to the NEDA board is in October or November," she added.


Source: Business World; News; 07 September 2011

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